I’ll put the kettle on

Cornwall Cogitation #6, Palm Sunday 20.03.2016–What better way to end a walk than to have a cup of tea. We put the kettle on, mate, to relax, savor the moment, collect ourselves. There are other reasons to put the kettle on, you’ll soon see.

Crossing the stile in style
Crossing the stile in style.
Happily away from the madding buzz of trucks and cars and with not a tractor in sight
Happily away from the maddening roar of trucks and cars and nary a tractor in sight.
A good day to you, too
A good day to you, too, Madam Bovine.
Almost dry, thankfully passable
Almost dry, thankfully passable, though the donkeys of previous years were nowhere to be seen and heard.

Tea to the rescue. Friends told us of a meeting last year where voices rose above their normal timbre. It was tense, an impasse, no calm in sight. One person jumped up and said, “I’ll put the kettle on!”   Of course, a cup of tea doesn’t solve dilemmas outright, but it is a venerable aid to agreeing and disagreeing in love.

Would time-out for a cup of tea work with governing bodies, councils, staff, families? Resolve ills of every sort over a cup of tea, now really? Here’s an example: Britain faces financial shortfalls in the  NHS (National Health Service), including cuts in the new budget for assistance to people with disabilities. The same applies elsewhere, but I chose the NHS as a case in point. Hospitals in Cornwall and Devon, as all over the country, are running deficits and face related pressures.

An editorial in The Western Morning News this week noted, “Britons are a creative, innovative people who have given many life-changing things to the world. . . . Many would argue, though, that the very best British invention never left these shores: The NHS, which enjoys fierce loyalty from the vast majority of UK citizens and is truly life-changing.”  Far-fetched as it may be, Government, local health trusts and patients might find some solutions to the NHS’s financial hemorrhaging by sitting down together over cups of tea, with some extra-strength Paracetamol tablets–with caffeine–at hand. Why not?

Commonwealth Day, Monday 14 March. The Commonwealth Day service took place at Westminster Abbey. The  Queen and all manner of notables and dignitaries were present. In the printed program, the soon-to-be 90-year-old Monarch wrote, “Today and in the year ahead, the theme An Inclusive Commonwealth is an inspiration for all of us. Let us give it practical effect by supporting those in need and those who feel excluded in all walks of life. By doing so, we will continue to build a truly representative Commonwealth community.”

The Commonwealth has 58 member countries representing 2.3 billion people, 60 percent of whom are under 30. Kamalesh Sharma, the Commonwealth’s out-going secretary general, said, “Globalization, the digital revolution and interdependence make us both a rapidly compacting but also colliding world. The strengths of the Commonwealth were never needed more to assert fairness in global outcomes and trust in the richness of our human identities.” The UK share of the Commonwealth’s population stands just shy of 65 million people.

I raise a cup of tea to the theme of inclusivity in this family of nations, recounting the old nursery rhyme, Polly Put the Kettle On:

Polly put the kettle on / Polly put the kettle on / Polly put the kettle on / We’ll all have tea.

Sukey take it off again / Sukey take it off again / Sukey take it off again / They’ve all gone away.

Pets and more pets. The Queen enjoys Corgis, one of 11 million British households that own 57 million pets. The highest percentage of the 10 most popular pets, of course, belongs to dogs and cats: 26 percent of the UK population owns dogs and 17 percent owns cats.  Who would want to know all that, you ask? Why, of course,  pet food manufacturers. In the US more than half of all households have at least one cat or dog sharing their home. In US households, pet cats number more than 84 million, pet dogs more than 75 million.

Bertie, Millie, Toby, Tilly, Julip, Barnabas are some of the dogs we’ve met out walking. Barnabas comes to church, belonging to bell ringers Roger and Doreen Sullivan. Dogs, for the most part, are well behaved, curious, eager to be out and about. Cats, on the other hand, carry on by themselves, or sit sunning in windows. Happily, most dog owners pick up after their pet; those who ignore such duty are duly and righteously chastised in letters to the editor and posted signage.

Barnabas, happily at home anywhere that Roger and Doreen go.
Refreshments for (almost) all at the St Anta Spring Fayre Fundraiser on 19 March.
First Bluebells, massive carpets to come in April.
The 27 walkers in the West Cornwall Footpath Preservation Society walk 14 March, reassemble after a picnic lunch.
One of the flocks of sheep who shared their pasture last Monday.

A few dogs came along on a walk this week with the West Cornwall Footpath Preservation Society. Enid’s dog, Tilly, comes on every walk she takes, shaking with eagerness all the way along. We covered four miles, with a midpoint stop for a picnic lunch. The weather finally has dried out field paths. One walker, a jazz hobbyist, proudly talked about his Conn trumpet manufactured in Elkhart, Indiana. It’s a good group, good conversationalists, good walkers in their 70s and 80s, getting together for a weekly walk, with tea and maybe a cake at a café afterwards. We’re honored to feel part of the group.

In February, I read The Evening Gull, the last book by Derek Tangye. Tangye died in 1996,  age 84; Jeannie, his wife, died in 1986. The couple established a nature preserve on the south coast, between Mousehole and Lamorna, about 18 miles from Carbis Bay.  Their  acreage and home offered an oasis for cats, donkeys, wild life and people seeking solitude. Tangye wrote, “The true Cornwall is mystical. It has always attracted sensitive people who find another dimension in their lives as they wander in areas unspoilt by man, their minds refreshed by a sense of timelessness.” You go to the countryside more to feel than to look, he wrote.

I asked one of the WCFPS walkers, Jack, whom we got to know last year, if he knew about  the Tangy books and property they left to the Cornwall Trust for Nature Conservation. Yes, he said. As we talked about the book I mentioned the neighboring farmer the couple relied on for help from time to time. “That was me,” Jack said. “I was the farmer Jack, Derek wrote about.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. The upshot is that in April, Jack and Yvonne will take us to visit this haven of rural, coastal tranquility. I’m dreaming of feeling the landscape through Jack’s eyes and from other of Derek’s books I picked up at the library.

“Feast along the way,” chapter 5 in On The Pilgrims’ Way, speaks to Holy Week. “The author of Hebrews captured something of the paradox when he wrote that Jesus, ‘for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross’ Hebrews 12:2.” Much will be shared in religious services this week, in song and word, of the joy of Christian community God poured out in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

A window at St Clement Church, near Truro, adds a dramatic note to the text from Psalms.


Late Saturday I opened The Independent newspaper and on page 19 saw the headline, “Mennonites to worship on the web as their last British church is forced to close.” The writer did a decent job, but made too much of the conservative, technology shy side of the faith community. I wrote a letter to the editor suggesting people check out the Mennonite World Conference website.

The last weekday print edition of The Independent will be Saturday 26 March. The last Independent on Sunday came out today. There’s an abbreviated I that also appears during the week and that paper has been sold to another company that will continue print publication. The former print edition of the Independent now will be published digitally, free for the first two months. Do I sign up? We’ll see.

Palm Sunday service at St Anta & All Saints this morning got us started on Holy Week. Hosanna! Hosanna! Crucify! Crucify! We sang Henry Hart Milman’s (1791-1868) hymn, “Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die.” God so loved the world . . . Christ on the cross . . . no one need perish . . . resurrection . . . the Lord reigns now and for eternity. The Lord reigns.

Celtic knot window in the Church of St Clement, near Truro. The church was built in the mid-13th century,
One of the side windows in St Anta & All Saints, the church we attend in Carbis Bay.
St Anta & All Saints clock and bell tower. Roger and Doreen invited us to learn to ring the bells on our first visit there in 2008. Roger has been bell captain for more than 50 years. The tower has eight bells; most times two to four are rung, depending on ringers available. We depend on “proper” ringers, preferring the role of listeners-on.

Blessings.  -John

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